January 8, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves shoots the ball over Washington Wizards power forward Trevor Booker (35) in the first half at Verizon Center. The Timberwolves won 93-72. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Timberwolves Preview (1/25/13)

After finally concluding their five game West Coast road trip, the Washington Wizards will return home to face the injury plagued Minnesota Timberwolves.

Key Match Up

It’s hard to think of a team who has dealt with more injuries than the Wizards this season. The only team which has dealt with more significant injuries are the Minnesota Timberwolves. After suffering a terrible ACL injury during the course of his rookie season, Ricky Rubio hasn’t had much impact since he returned this year. Rubio, who was touted as one of the best young guards in the NBA, is having one of the worst seasons amongst other players in the NBA. He’s averaged 4 points and 5 assists this year, while shooting a horrific 24 percent from the field. The once playoff bound Timberwolves, have now found themselves back in a familiar spot. This season has really been disheartening for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Injuries have been too common amongst the two franchises. Unlike Rubio, John Wall’s return to Washington has been meaningful. Granted, Wall has a supporting cast which is a lot more talented than Rubio’s, the Wizards have been picking up some wins since Wall’s return. Washington’s average points per game has increased by 12 since Wall has returned to the lineup. Although he’s still hovering around 20-25 minutes per game, Wall’s impact on this lowly Wizards team has been unexplainable. The team plays with a lot more effort, passion, and commitment if Wall is on the floor. Rubio isn’t a bad defender, but I can’t see how he’ll be able to stay in front of Wall, especially during transition opportunities.  Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of the John Wall-Bradley Beal combination than we did against Utah on Wednesday night.

Other Links/Notes

Prediction

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Wizards compete at the Verizon Center. The Timberwolves are completely depleted, and that doesn’t help their chances of beating a Wizards team who has been playing at a high level as of late.

When healthy, the Wolves are a playoff contender. With Kevin Love out, who is in my opinion the best power forward in the NBA and the league’s best rebounding big man, the Wolves are nothing more than a lottery team. As Thomas Pruitt on Bullets Forever pointed out, the Wolves are still an exceptional defensive team. Andrei Kirilenko uses his length to disrupt offense, and create fast break opportunities off of steals. Their other role players such as Dante Cunningham and Greg Stiemsma are known for that scrappy style of play. Despite their injuries, Minnesota has remained mildly competitive, and they’re not a team Washington can fall asleep on.

Don’t get me wrong, Minnesota still has some guys who can get it done on a nightly basis. Luke Ridnour and J.J Barea can still put the ball in the basket, as well as get their teammates involved. Barea has a reputation of exploding for 20+ points on any given night. Wall, Beal, and Jordan Crawford have to do a good job in containing them from going off tonight.

Washington has been competitive in virtually every game since John Wall’s return from injury. Their intensity on both ends of the floor has been a pleasure to watch. For the first time in a very long time, the Wizards haven’t been a pain to watch play. Washington has the advantage in every aspect of tonight’s game. With Pekovic out, who has averaged 16 points and 9 rebounds per game, the Wolves don’t have a legitimate low post threat. They are decent defensively, but I can’t see how they match up with Nene, Emeka Okafor, and even Kevin Seraphin.

Not to mention, Bradley Beal and John Wall will probably use this game to bounce back. It would be a shame if Washington loses this one tonight, since they have a chance to continue their winning streak at home.

Washington will win this one tonight, and by a large margin. At least they should.

 

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